There is much emphasis throughout the leadership of the Methodist Church these days of demonstrating fruitfulness. We used to call it statistical reporting, but now it is "meeting the metrics of fruitfulness." It is more scriptural language, but very similar in design and purpose. Don't misread that as cynicism... I don't mean for that. We are called to bear fruit, and there must be some accounting for what is and is not working. However, it is sometimes hard to tell.
Often in ministry, we use the expression, "Planting a seed." At times I feel like it is a cop out. We have done good work, but can see no results... "Well, we've planted a seed."
Kristin, the kids and I planted some seeds this week. It is our first real crack at gardening, so we tilled up a spot in the yard, added good soil and some plant food, then planted some seeds. The tilling was hard work. We did not splurge on any machinery, so I did it by hand, then when I was exhausted Kristin went in and hand pick leftover dead grass, roots, weeds, and rocks. We spent the better part of a day making the garden, and only a the end of the day did we finally plant the seeds (the easiest, least time consuming, and most rewarding part). Now we have a garden. We are happy with the way it looks, but currently it is bare. We have completed the hard work, and yet it is just dirt waiting for water, sun, and time.
There is a lot of hard work in gardening, the fruits of which are not quickly seen. But the fruitfulness happens in the waiting.
Much of what we do in the church is about waiting. That is not the abdication of hard work, the waiting is in addition to the work. I don't like to wait. I like to see results--I like to see and hear stories of fruitfulness. But I think God makes us wait to see fruit so that we do not forget that we are not alone in the work. Yes, the work is ours to do, but the results are not entirely up to us. We must wait for fruitfulness--it is a gift. The writer of Ecclesiastes said, "A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted." In the middle is waiting, reminding us that fruitfulness is the result of our work along with the work of God.